Jan. 8 was the first real Saturday morning of the new year. It was a pleasant enough morning until the news raced across the country. A congresswoman had been shot in Arizona.

News reports flashed across the screen. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, then she was dead and then she had survived. Others were dead and even more wounded.

The ambulances had not even gotten the wounded to the hospitals before the left-wing media were trying to crank out the news story. Their line was simple. Blame conservatives, blame the tea party, and blame Sarah Palin.

For many in the tea-party movement, early 2009 represented their first involvement in politics. There are some in this movement who were in politics before 2009. Many of us remember 1995.

On April 19, 1995, the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was attacked, with dozens killed and hundreds wounded. Four days after that attack, then-President Clinton declared war on conservative America, with a broadside blaming “many loud and angry voices.” Clinton could not have been more specific if he had named Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. His attack and ongoing attacks in the days and weeks after the Oklahoma City bombing were stunning. And, they were effective. Much as a high and tight fastball will drive a batter away from the plate, Clinton’s attacks drove Republicans away from attacks on him, and many credit his attacks on conservatives after the Oklahoma City bombing for getting him a second term.

For those of us who remembered 1995 and some who simply recognized what was going on, there was no time to lose this time around. Tea Party Nation, along with other conservative media, fought back.

Using the same media the left was using, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, conservatives immediately pushed back. The police had someone in custody but released no details. That didn’t matter to the left, who immediately declared on Twitter that the person must have been a right-wing extremist. Conservatives pushed back and would not let that story get out there. As soon as Jared Loughner was identified, former classmates began tweeting, describing Loughner as a left-wing pothead.

Crackerjack prize winner and alleged economics professor Paul Krugman wrote in a piece for the New York Times on Saturday afternoon, claiming politics must have had something to do with the killing. That became the left’s next mantra. Conservatives quickly refuted that one since it came out that Loughner did not like the news and did not pay attention to it.

The left then tried to turn the discussion into the need for civility and blaming the “overheated” rhetoric for the problems, even though Loughner was oblivious to that rhetoric.

Thanks to conservatives on social media, that line pretty much died, too.

The political storm surrounding this tragedy was a victory for the tea-party movement. While it is terrible to talk about in those terms, and leftist bloggers are going to take that statement out of context, just wait – the left was the one that created a media storm surrounding the shooting. The left was the side that tried to use it for political advantage, and the left started crying when conservatives used social media for self-defense.

The left had reached back into an old playbook to bring this one out. But unlike 1995, we were ready. Also unlike 1995, when the left still had a virtual monopoly on the media and the message, that situation no longer exists.

There is an old truism in politics. Either define your opponent, or your opponent will define you. The left tried to use social media to define conservatives and pin the blame for the shootings on conservatives. Conservatives used the same tools to paint the hard left as absolutely wrong and absolutely crass to use such a tragedy for political gain.

This is a fight tea-party members and conservatives should remember. The left will use this play again. We cannot rely on Fox News, Rush Limbaugh or WorldNetDaily to get out there and do our heavy lifting for us. Social media gives us the tools to fight leftist smears and do it effectively.

Tucson taught us this. Let’s not forget it.

Judson Phillips is founder and CEO of Tea Party Nation.

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